Toni Morrison’s Writing and Listening When Others Speak

By Karen Austin

Writing in the wake of Toni Morrison’s passing on Monday, August 5, 2019 is a daunting task. Her craft outshines my ability to describe it. Nevertheless, I want to gesture to her writing, which is powerful in both form and content. Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs …

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Unexpected Adventures

Today’s UP CLOSE post is from the trips and travels of Ellen Patton of Lexington, Mass. Late-night baking, antiquing and exploring New England are some of her loves.  She believes strongly in writing letters and mailing them with real stamps, spending time with friends, and enjoys photography. She adores her loft condo with 18 foot ceilings in a converted high school. During the day she works as an assistant to the President of MIT, and has word processing, photocard, and photography businesses on the side. Ellen has 3 brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, and a bus fleet of friends. She currently serves as RSP in the Arlington Ward. She is a daily blogger at
I had hoped, but never thought I’d be one of those people who traveled to exciting places in the world.  I grew up in Los Angeles, traveled the west coast and saw most of what there was to see in California.  I’ve been to all but seven states (driving from California to Boston added some in “the middle” that I probably never would have visited otherwise).  My mom took us to Mexico when we were kids and I went to Canada as a chaperone on a youth Temple trip.

I lucked out with two business trips to Europe while working for a start-up software company.  I had been responsible for running the office (making copies, phone calls, power point slides, etc.) in a window-less hotel room in Boston twice a year for our member meetings.  Then they asked me if I wanted to run the office–in Munich!  Two years later they asked about Brussels!  Both trips lasted two weeks with four days of work and exploring with coworkers and on my own.  I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get to Europe again so I took advantage and saw as much as I could.  From the Sound of Music tour to Neuschwanstein Castle, Hallstatt, Austria, driving on the autobahn, seeing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, buying lace in Bruges, riding trains, visiting friends in St. Die, France, seeing the Mona Lisa, eating croissants and wiener schnitzel, drinking soda from a beer mug at the Hofbrauhaus and visiting Olympic villages—both trips were great adventures!

In 1999 my friend Jennifer called and asked if I had always wanted to go to China.  In my dreams.

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Revisiting First Impressions

Rosalyn Collings Eves is our UP CLOSE Trips and Travels guest author today.  She enjoys traveling, although she hasn’t been able to do nearly as much of this since becoming a mother to two young children: a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. When not trying to plan and execute child-friendly trips, she plays with …

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Travels in the Islamic World

Today’s UP CLOSE trips and travels post comes from Melanie, who  lives and works in the Washington, DC area.  She loves planning trips almost as much as she loves taking them, and sometimes she has trouble remembering where she’s actually been and where she’s just dreamed of going. Most recently her travels took her to Egypt and Turkey.  Next she hopes to visit Niagara Falls, Peru, and Puerto Rico.  She publishes her random thoughts and ideas at mel-bel.blogspot.com.

Allah u Akbar, Allah u Akbar

Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah – Ash-hadu al-la Ilaha ill Allah

Allah is Great, Allah is Great

I bear witness that there is no divinity but Allah

 I experienced my first call to prayer in surround sound. The song burst forth from one mosque and then bounced and echoed from tower to tower in Cairo, the city of a thousand minarets.

 This summer several of my friends traveled to Jerusalem. I, on the other hand, used my hard-earned savings to visit the Muslim world–Egypt and Turkey, to be exact. I fell in love with Islamic art as a humanities major at BYU, and ever since I have longed to see the Shah (Imam) Mosque in Iran . . .or perhaps the more accessible mosques of countries a bit more friendly to Americans.

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“You are welcome here.”

By Leslie Graff

Three weeks ago I stepped off the plane in Amman, Jordan. “Welcome,” the immigration officer nodded as he snapped my picture and passed me back my freshly stamped passport.

If there was any one word I would come to hear a thousand times in 10 days it was welcome. In fact, it is the word I think of first when I think of Jordan. I guess I remember it because other than being printed on doormats or hotel signs, welcome isn’t really a word we use much other than in the context of “You’re welcome, ” our semi-conscious auto-pilot response to “Thank you.”

While it was certainly explicit in conversations, it was also so apparent in people’s actions.  It was everywhere, from the father and grandfather who offered to share tea with me during their child’s surgery,  or the mother who brought gifts of prayer beads and the Koran as thanks for our help. It was the little girl who slipped her ring onto my finger while we played in the playroom, and the many compliments and “mashallah”s of  of the mothers as they saw the pictures of my own children as we talked before their children’s surgeries. It was the in the “What can I do to help you?” and “Anything else you need?” I heard from dozens of volunteers each day.  It was even evident in the waiter who brought me an extra half a kilo of ice cream (in addition to the 1 kilo I ordered—which was already an outrageous amount) just to be hospitable. Not to mention, the invitations for dinner from parents or the medical students who treated us to dinner and gave us a tour of Amman. The spirit of welcomeness seemed to saturate the week and a half; it also permeated our communal meals of endless courses and generous portions.

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